Rosie the Riveter is a legendary cultural icon representing American women in
the workplace. Initially, she personified women who worked in factories
during World War II, filling the roles of male workers who had left to serve in
the war overseas. However, today Rosie's status as an icon has grown to
serve as a symbol for all American women, including feminism and female
During World War II, women were expected to become a key resource for the
military by creating munitions and supplies for the American war effort.
According to Rosie and the U.S. government, it was their patriotic duty to enter
First popularized in early 1943 by a hit song of the same name, the idea of
Rosie the Riverter quickly caught on with the American public. Famed
illustrator Norman Rockwell contributed to her surge in popularity when his
depiction of Rosie graced the Saturday Evening Post cover on Memorial Day, May
29, 1943. The cover image was so popular the magazine loaned it to the
U.S. Treasury Department for the duration of the war. Rockwell's version
of Rosie was the predominant image of that era.
However, it was another iconic illustration from the period that would leave
an indelible mark on U.S. history. In 1942, artist J. Howard Miller was
chosen by the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee to
create a series of posters for the war efforts. Originally, his "We Can Do
It" poster was intended for private use only in an attempt to boost morale at
Westinghouse factories. It was only shown to a few employees and had no
association with Rosie the Riveter. Nearly four decades later, the
rediscovered poster became famous and synonymous with Rosie and women's
empowerment, although that had not been its original intent.